At Plaza Barber Shop, the goal is to treat everyone like family.
Co-owners and brother and sister Gerry Russo and Rosemary Monod have been doing haircuts for families of many generations in Morristown.
“I’ve seen customers my brother and I’ve been doing and they were babies in strollers coming in getting their first haircut and now they’re like 22 and getting married,” Monod said. “So we’ve had parents and their kids come in who then eventually bring their grandkids who then bring their kids. It’s incredible.”
Their grandfather, Dominic Palumbo first opened the shop 92 years ago in November of 1929 during the Great Depression.
Palumbo was working for another barber shop in Morristown when his customer, who was the First National Bank President, told Palumbo that he was the “best barber in town” and deserved his own shop.
The bank president told him a customer had a turn-key operation that needed a buyer and the rest was history.
Palumbo hired his son Gerard to help him out and years later, Russo’s mother met Joseph Russo, a barber in training in Italy.
They married and moved to Morristown in 1957 and about eight years later, after Palumbo passed away, Joseph became the owner of the shop at the original location on South Street.
During the next several decades, the shop moved to its current location at 6 Elm Street, and Joseph was joined by his kids, Gerry and Rosemary and six years ago, his grandson, Albert joined.
“To have my son working alongside me now like I worked alongside my dad is really something special,” Russo said.
After working there for 60 years, Joseph retired from the shop five years ago, and at 90 years old he still checks in from time to time, Russo said.
“As Pop has said, we have managed to survive the Depression, wars, the Beatles invasion, and COVID-19,” Russo said. “After 92 years and 4 generations, Plaza Barber Shop remains a staple in this community.
Thirty-eight years later, Russo is still cutting hair and said he’s proud and honored to continue the business and see new and old customers come in everyday.
“You’re treated like family here, you’re not like a number. You become part of our family when you come here and that’s how we were taught to treat our customers like family,” Russo said. “Generations and generations of kids and that’s what my father instilled in all of us here…We get to know you and you get to know us and you become one of the family.”
Russo still hears stories about his father from his customers who used to be his father’s clients.
“One fellow turns around and says, ‘I remember when your father first came to this country from Italy. The first haircut and your father started talking Italian. Your grandfather turned around and said, ‘Hey, Joe, you’re an American, English. No more Italian. Stories like that, that about my father or that my father shared with me mean a lot.”
Monod said the shop is the third oldest business in Morristown from that time period with a funeral home and shoe store ahead of them.
“I think my grandfather is looking down and smiling, I really think he’d be very happy with what the business has become,” Monod said.
Over the years, Monod and Russo said they’ve seen and experienced the growth of Morristown.
“We’ve seen the expansion of new buildings, high rises, and apartments bringing more people to the town,” Monod said. “It’s good because it brings up business or housing. We see more people coming in so in a sense it is good because it’s bringing new people into the area.”
They’ve also had some scares for the business, including COVID-19 when Russo said he wasn’t sure if the business would survive after they were closed for about four months.
He said he had a very serious conversation and his father told him the business will survive as it has through the past 90-plus years through the Great Depression and the Beatles invasion when people wanted the mop-top look.
Russo said he couldn’t have done it without the team he’s had by his side, like his sister and more recently, his son.
“We have a really great team here and I don’t know where we’d be today without these guys,” Russo said.
Monod said many people in the Morristown area hear about the shop by word of mouth.
“Somebody says like ‘I’m looking for a barber’ and people just tell them ‘they’ve been there for over 90 years, go to them. They know what they’re doing.’ Gerri’s been cutting hair for 38 years, I’ve been cutting for 28 years, so you know, we know what we’re doing.”
Prices range from $25 to $40 for women’s haircuts, $18 for seniors 65 years and older and $20 to $25 for men’s haircuts.
Appointments are required. To make an appointment, people can call (973) 267-6616.